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The Pearl: George Herbert’s view upon the God

The Pearl

George Herbert

The Pearl: George Herbert’s view upon the God

Q. George Herbert’s view upon the God through his poem, The Pearl

Answer: Herbert prefaced The Pearl with an epigraph of the Bible - in particular, from the book of Matthew, chapter 13, verse 45. He gives us references about Resilience of God’s grandeur. But he relies on the reader to understand the (literally) chapter of the Bible and provides the verse, rather than making his self-quotation himself.

In his reference it reads: ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant, looking for good pearls’ (King James Version). This quote gives George Herbert the title of his poem, The Pearl. Thus, the pearl symbolizes something that is sought but not necessarily easily found, such as 'good' or beautiful pearls are not easily found. This quote gives us a clue to the meaning of the poem, The Pearl.

In this poem, Herbert discusses his relationship with God. In short, 'The Pearl' is precisely about this relationship. In the first three stanzas of the poem, Herbert tells us how he is well acquainted with some of life's most important pursuits and benefits - education, honor, and joy, which are discussed one by one in the first three stanzas – But all these things are worthless when they are laid just beside Herbert’s love for God, the almighty.

The structure and syntax of each stanza of The Pearl bears this out: Herbert's long discussion of the various benefits (education, respect, joy) of each of these ideals is long and syntactically complex, manifested throughout the first nine lines of the stanza comprising of iambic pentameter. Then we get a short final line. It simply reads: ‘Yet I love thee.’ These four simple monologues are repeated at the end of the first three stanzas, indicating the steadfast nature of God.

George Herbert's view upon the God

Once someone finds God, nothing can surpass Him (the God). George Herbert concludes The Pearl with the fourth stanza in which he argues that his love for God is far from perfect because of his worldly knowledge of education, honor, and joy.On the contrary, he knows and understands these worldly things, appreciates their power, but rejects them on behalf of God. To use his own metaphoric elaboration, he is not an ignorant customer who simply grabs the first product he finds on the shelves, but a conscious punter makes a cautious decision. 

Herbert then says that it is not his own 'enthusiastic intellect' that enables him to see that God is superior to these other worldly qualities: instead, he is thankful to the guidance of God, who throws a bound silk sheet from heaven, which Herbert then sent to heaven and to God and the silk sheet is used for climbing.

Then there are a few words in the way of the analysis of 'The Pearl'. It is difficult to confirm the date on which Herbert wrote The Pearl, but we wonder if these opening lines could be a reference to a recent scientific discovery:

“I Know the wayes of Learning; both the head
And pipes that feed the presse, and make it runne;”


I know the way to learn; both heads

And the pipes that feed the press and makes it the queen;

In 1628, five years before Herbert's death, William Harvey published his On the Motion of the Heart and Blood. It was Harvey's paper that first explained how the heart (Herbert's 'presse') pumps blood around the body through the arteries (Herbert's 'pipes'?). If Herbert is actually referring to Harvey's recent discovery in these opening lines, it is better to prove his point: no matter how sophisticated, thorough and up-to-date his 'learning' is, it is still secondary to him.

In fact, this metaphor of blood and heart repeats the second and third stanzas of 'The Pearl', referring to Herbert's 'Glory' which 'swells the heart' and 'the prelude to hot blood and brain'. The echoes of the opening image of the poem in these subsequent stanzas suggest a link between them but, more importantly, point out their physical or mortal defects: learning without the knowledge of God is not good, if it is not complementary then respect is not honorable by religious observation, 'flesh' (Herbert readily admits that his 'material flesh') is trivial in the face of religious upheaval.

Throughout the first three stanzas of The Pearl there is more that is repeated - and indeed, the fourth stanza - the language of business. This is well worth the analysis. It should be remembered here that Herbert started The Pearl with reference to a biblical quote that a merchant was searching for pearls for sale. In the first stanza, we find 'stock and surplus'; in the  second stanza, ‘Returns’ and ‘Gains’, which deal with financial meaning; In the third stanza, ‘immediate store project’; And the final stanza, ‘Original Sales, and Products’ as well as ‘Price and Price’. But here, what began with the earthly transaction is used to refer to Herbert's heavenly relationship with God. The Pearl has already been found.

One thing that deserves special analysis in The Pearl is a feature found in many of George Herbert's poems: the contrast between plain-spoken and simple, and more rhetorical and linguistically complex.


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